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Commonly Used
Terms

 

A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal resulting in tiredness, weakness or shortness of breath. Anaemia is common in cancer patients because the body directs attention to producing white cells to fight the disease, often resulting in fewer red cells.

A group of medications which help prevent and control nausea and vomiting. In recent years, these have become more effective and with careful use, can keep nausea under control.

The soft, sponge-like tissue in the centre of large bones including the thigh, hip and spine, which produce blood cells in a process called hematopoiesis. The blood cells start out as stem cells, which are immature cells that are not yet differentiated into their mature form. These particular stem cells can either make copies of themselves or make other cells which are further developed on their way to being blood cells. Sometimes a bone marrow biopsy is required to help doctors to diagnose disease.

An umbrella term for collection of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.

A cancer treatment that destroys rogue cells by targeting and damaging the DNA inside them, responsible for causing them to divide and replicate. When cells don’t divide and replicate, they simply die. Typically, cells that divide fast, respond best to chemotherapy, and this is useful because cancer cells grow and multiply much faster than most other cells.

A test that measures the number and types of blood cells circulating in the blood. This is important because different types of blood cells have different functions. White blood cells generally fight disease or rogue cells and red blood cells are typically responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Chemotherapy can sometimes cause an imbalance in the proportions of red and white blood cells. When there is a serious imbalance, doctors may have to temporarily suspend treatment to allow the proper balance to be restored.

A doctor who specialises in treating blood diseases. Cancers of the blood are common and because they don’t typically involve a mass or tumour, they are not treated with surgery. There are many specialised haematologists operating at Hollywood Private Hospital, providing bespoke care to patients with blood cancer.

A molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen. When iron stores become very low, the body will borrow iron from haemoglobin and this will cause severe fatigue and difficulty breathing, as the body has no way to transport oxygen.

The group of cells and tissue that defend the body against infection and disease. Our bodies have a very complex and advanced system of defence that operates on many levels, ranging from our biggest organ, the skin, which acts as a barrier right through to tiny specialised fighter cells in our blood whose only purpose is to detect and kill threats to the healthy functioning of the body.

A method of giving liquid substances directly into the vein. Giving drugs intravenously means they are directly absorbed into the blood stream and make their way more quickly to where they are needed. Intravenous antibiotics for example, work very quickly and can be a very effective way to treat infection. Many chemotherapy drugs are also administered intravenously.

This is the term given to cells that divide and multiple without control, interrupting normal bodily functions. Malignant cells have the capacity to spread to other parts of the body and invade healthy tissue and this process is called metastases.

The spread of cancer cells from one body part or organ to another organ. Cancerous cells that spread from one part of the body to another will still have the hallmarks of cells from the original site, even though they are now located in a different location. This means that it is very important for doctors to understand where the cells originated, so that they can create the most effective treatment to eradicate them.

This is the term used to describe the feeling uneasiness in the stomach. Sometimes it can be difficult to hold down food or fluid. Nausea is common in cancer patients who are undergoing treatment however your specialist team can make recommendations of practices and medications to assist.

A condition in which the number of neutrophils is below normal, resulting in increased risk of infection.

A type of white blood cell that kills harmful bacteria. These cells are carefully monitored in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, as the medications can sometimes affect the white blood cell count, making the patient more prone to infection.

Swelling caused by a build-up of fluid. Tissue that is affected by oedema often has a plasticine-like texture.

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer. Different oncologists usually specialise in treating different types of cancer, which is important for the patient because it means they will be able to offer very specialised, targeted care.

Also known as thrombocytes, platelets are small blood cell fragments which have a primary function of stopping bleeding in damaged tissues. When tissue is damaged, platelets rush to the scene and form a clot to stop the bleeding and fix the damage.

The use of high energy, potent X-rays to destroy cancer cells which ultimately results in the shrinkage of tumours. Radiation is also often used after chemotherapy to target remaining cancer cells which may linger.

Blood is made up of different components, and the most abundant of those components is the red blood cells. These cells have different roles but primarily they carry oxygen to the rest of the body and move carbon dioxide to the lungs so it can be expelled.

A term describing when a disease that was previously under control and in remission, returns.

This is the term used by doctors when the signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. Different diseases and different types of cancer have their own unique criteria which need to be met before the patient is deemed to be in remission.

A system of categorising cancer that relates to the progression of the disease. Different stages of cancer will be treated in different ways because some treatments are more effective or only available at certain stages. In recent years, developments in modern medicine have provided many more treatment options for cancer in advanced stages, providing better prognosis and outcomes for patients.

There are many different types of cells within the body and all have their own unique role. Specialised cells can not generally transform into another type of cell. For example, the cells that make up our kidneys are unique to the kidney. Stem cells however do have the capacity to mature into a range of different types of specialised cells, or to replicate as stem cells. Advances in recent research has demonstrated that some types of stem cells have the power to rejuvenate damaged tissue.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to use synthetic versions of substances that occur naturally in the body, to induce particular responses. Steroids are a close copy of a hormone that is naturally found in the body, which is known to help reduce inflammation and the activity of the immune system. This can be helpful in treating some diseases and disorders, including arthritis and cancer. Some forms of steroids are taken orally and need to be taken with food. If you are prescribed steroids, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about potential side effects and the best time of day to take them.

An abnormal mass that results from the excessive, unabated and unnecessary growth of cells. Tumours, also sometimes referred to as lesions, may be benign or malignant.

Malignant tumours cause more concern as they have the ability to spread and invade other parts of the body, disrupting essential functions. Malignant cancer cells often spread to other parts of the body, travelling via the blood stream or the lymphatic system. This is referred to as metastasis.

Benign tumours are not cancerous and can often be removed without returning and for this reason they are rarely a threat to life, unless they are located in a position which can compromise organ function.

Treatment of tumours depends on their type, size and whether they have spread to other parts of the body.

An abnormal mass that results from the excessive, unabated and unnecessary growth of cells. Tumours, also sometimes referred to as lesions, may be benign or malignant.

Malignant tumours cause more concern as they have the ability to spread and invade other parts of the body, disrupting essential functions. Malignant cancer cells often spread to other parts of the body, travelling via the blood stream or the lymphatic system. This is referred to as metastasis.

Benign tumours are not cancerous and can often be removed without returning and for this reason they are rarely a threat to life, unless they are located in a position which can compromise organ function.

Treatment of tumours depends on their type, size and whether they have spread to other parts of the body.